After the Mandela Moment: What now South Africa?
by Sharlene Swartz

The past few months have been a milestone in South Africa’s history – there’s no doubt about that.  Nelson Mandela is gone, he died on 5 December, 2013. A day earlier the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation released its annual reconciliation barometer. Amongst its findings were that  38% of white South Africans DO NOT believe Apartheid was a crime against humanity and 54% DO NOT believe that black South Africans are poor today as a result of Apartheid’s legacy.

Following Mandela’s death these attitudes have been almost non-existent. Instead we’ve made huge pronouncements about how we are so very thankful for all that Madiba has done for us, how we pledge to continue and honour his legacy, how so much still needs to change. But what now South Africa?


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Some responses to Tariq Modood’s Kohlberg Memorial Lecture at the 2013 AME conference, Montreal, from different regions around the world.

The following is a brief summary of the main points of Modood’s Kohlberg Memorial Lecture (prepared by Larry Blum):

Western European nations, and Francophone Canada, have retreated from using “multiculturalism” as a term referring to a positive phenomenon. The term has become stigmatized.

TM still defends multiculturalism, which he defines as aiming at the integration of immigrant and immigrant-origin minorities into societies and polities with a dominant, numerical majority ethnocultural group. This integration requires change and mutual adjustment on the part of the majority community and the minority communities.

TM recognizes that “interculturalism” is regarded as an acceptable term that has come to replace “multiculturalism” especially in Europe and Canada. He did not speak about the differences between interculturalism and multiculturalism, except to note briefly that he thought the Quebec version had a stronger emphasis on the normative primacy of French Canadian culture in Quebec as providing a framework for (multiculturalist) integration of minorities. His talk did not speak to the issue of “interculturalism,” and he recognized this. (TM’s views on this issue can be found in Nasar Meer and Tariq Modood, “How Does Interculturalism Contrast with Multiculturalism,” Journal of Intercultural Studies, 33:2, 175-196.)

Referring to the prominent Canadian multicultural theorist Will Kymlicka, TM agrees with Kymlicka that issues of “integration” are different for immigrant groups and for indigenous peoples. While Kymlicka discusses these differences, TM’s notion of multiculturalism does not take on indigeneity issues and he does not discuss them in his writing on multiculturalism, nor in his KML. But, to repeat, he does not think that his model works for indigenous peoples.

TM thinks that despite the semantic retreat from “multiculturalism” in Europe and Canada, in practice the nations in question have largely adopted multiculturalist policies.

TM (himself a somewhat secular Muslim) is particularly concerned about Muslim integration in Europe, and recognizes that the retreat from multiculturalism is largely, though not entirely, due to majority concerns about Muslim minorities. TM thinks that multiculturalism should expressly embrace religious accommodation and diversity, thus abandoning a strict public secularism (such as is expressed in the French idea of laïcité).


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Ethics at Lunch
by Bill Puka

August had meant, for a few decades, walks by the dunes of Larry K’s ocean beach in Wellfleet where he countenanced only “deep-thought” conversation.  Vegetarianism would sometimes come up, him being highly critical of it, me, a vegetarian, trying to get out of the discussion.  For those of you who perhaps might not be familiar with his name, Larry Kohlberg was a merchant marine and child magician who got interested in psychology, getting his doctorate in a year at the University of Chicago with a study that continued for the rest of his life and went worldwide, and continues today.  How children develop their own sense of justice, right and wrong was its focus, as was helping them along in the classroom.  From the Center for Moral Development he established at Harvard, he helped created a revolving set of communities – Just Communities, they were called, extending to Europe, South America and Asia — that recall the Center and the scholars there as something like utopia.  Kohlberg created a community of people, the first of AME, that none of us who were in it can ever hope to find again in academics.  It was a true family, and we still hold onto that sense of each other from afar.


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Affirmative Action Dodges a Bullet: But Should We be Cheering?
by Lawrence Blum

In its long-awaited Fisher decision, the Supreme Court let stand the use of race preferences in college admissions as part of affirmative action programs.[i] The SC reaffirmed the principle of educational diversity stated in previous affirmative action cases (Bakke, 1978, and Grutter, 2003), that achieving racial diversity is a “compelling state interest” justifying race preference. However, the Court constrained the use of such race preferences by requiring colleges to demonstrate that no race-neutral admissions process could produce the desired degree of racial diversity.

(Educational) affirmative action is practiced only at selective colleges and universities. Less selective and especially public ones, such as the University of Massachusetts at Boston where I teach, are able to achieve as much or greater racial diversity without using race preferences in admissions, largely because they serve a less privileged segment of the population. The beneficiaries of affirmative action are for the most part the most advantaged segment of the black and Latino college-aspiring population.[ii] From the point of view of racial justice I think we should be no more than tepidly enthusiastic about educational affirmative action as it survived the Supreme Court’s scrutiny.


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Revisiting Competing Conceptions of the Justice of Affirmative Action
by Elizabeth Vozzola

On October 10, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court heard opening arguments in the controversial Fisher v. University of Texas affirmative action case in which Abigail Fisher, a white 2008 Texas public school graduate, charges that she was a victim of racial discrimination. Fisher narrowly missed out on admission to the state’s flagship institution under Texas’s Top 10% Law that guarantees admission to any Texas high school student ranked in the top 10% of her or his class. This race-neutral law accounts for 60-80% of each year’s matriculating students. The rest of the class is selected through a combination of academic factors and a “Personal Achievement Index” that takes into account a variety of factors including race. The University has argued for the importance of its affirmative action policy to ensure diversity—specifically; a greater number of more affluent minorities than were being admitted under the Top 10% Law. Given the roots of affirmative action policy in the principle of justice, the fact that the arguments for fairness came from the anti-affirmative action side presents an irony of particular relevance to the field of moral development.

As a former university affirmative action officer whose dissertation research examined college faculty’s moral reasoning about affirmative action, I have been following this case with great interest. While fully acknowledging the barriers still posed by racial discrimination, I believe that a policy designed to achieve diversity by admitting more affluent and better-educated minority students over less affluent and privileged white ones will ultimately prove impossible to defend.


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Failing Students for No-Name Assignments?
Fair Grading Practice in Elementary Education
by D. Scott Herrmann

Juveniles are developmentally different than adults.  As a society we get it, right?  In the 1930s child labor laws were established when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed, recognizing that juveniles are fundamentally different than working adults.  They are in a state of developmental maturation which requires special safeguards because of their immaturity.   In the United States juveniles are not allowed to vote until their 18th birthday and are not allowed to consume alcohol until their 21st birthday.  Why?  Because juveniles are in state of developmental maturation.  They are not ready to be held fully accountable for the ramifications of their actions or inactions in the same way that adults are.  In recent years the United States Supreme Court has taken this metaphorical football and has run with it.  In 2005 (Roper v. Simmons) and 2010 (Graham v. Florida), the Court passed laws rejecting the death penalty for juveniles, and life without the possibility of parole for juveniles who commit non-homicide offenses.  The Court did it again in 2012 (Miller v. Alabama) when they rejected mandatory life without parole for juvenile homicide offenders. Why?  Because the Court recognized that juveniles are in a state of developmental maturation.  In all three cases the Court relied upon scientific evidence regarding the development of children’s brains.  Neuropsychological research has shown persuasive evidence that the juvenile brain differs substantially from the adult brain in several key ways, and as a result the Court reasoned that juveniles should be held to a different standard than adults.  The scientific evidence considered by the Court was summarized in three amicus briefs filed by the American Psychological Association which can be viewed here: (Roper v. Simmons amicus brief; Graham v. Florida amicus brief; Miller v. Alabama amicus brief).


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Let’s Contest the Meaning of Competition
by David Light Shields

As I write this, the 2012 Summer Olympics are just getting underway.  It’s a pleasant break from the other epic contest that’s been dominating our TV sets for the past several weeks – the ad battles between the U.S. presidential candidates!  It certainly is an opportune moment to reflect on that virtually omnipresent process that engulfs so much of our lives – competition.  We rely on competition as a central dynamic in our businesses, our politics, our legal system, our schools, and our games.

I’ve been struck recently by the frequency with which competition is mentioned in a variety of educational texts, usually in a quick, casual manner and almost always with an implied negative connotation.  For example, I was reviewing the introductory text that we use in our Educational Foundations course and noticed that it mentions how teachers sometime become “competitive” with other teachers, to their detriment.  Social and educational critics often mention how the “hidden curriculum” of schools teach students to value competition, apparently at the expense of cooperation.  Of course, the most explicit and detailed criticism of competition is presented by Alfie Kohn in his APA-Award-winning book, No Contest: The Case against Competition (1992).


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Neuroscience, Moral Psychology, and the Homunculus Fallacy
by Don Collins Reed

I was taught as a boy that vision involves an image entering my head through my eyes. As the image is conducted through the lenses, it is flipped upside down and projected stereoscopically onto the back of my head. My brain then has to re-flip the image and interpret it. Putting the matter this way, however, assumes the presence of a little man inside my head who sees the image projected as if onto a screen – who would in turn have to have a little man inside his head, and so on ad infinitum.

This is called the “homunculus [or ‘little man’] fallacy.” Neuroscientists scoff at such a lack of sophistication.

On the other hand, we sometimes hear neuroscientists say things like the following: “Just as the CEO of a corporation delegates different tasks to different people occupying different offices, your brain parcels out different jobs to different regions” (V.S. Ramachandran, 2011, The Tell-Tale Brain, p. 95). This brain-as-bureaucracy metaphor is not far from a little person watching the screen at the back of your head, or an entire bureau of such little people, with a master homunculus as CEO.


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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‘Help’ing to Forget Feminism: How Racism and Sexism are Personal and Not Political in the Film ‘The Help’
by Stephanie Troutman

The moral dilemma of 1950’s racism is a prominent theme of the 2011 film, “The Help,” adapted from the novel of the same name by Katherine Stockett. The film was nominated for numerous Academy Awards (Octavia Spencer won for Best Supporting Actress) and won several Screen Actor’s Guild Awards – Octavia Spenser (Minny) and Viola Davis (Aibileen) picked up individual awards for acting, as did the entire cast for best ensemble. Though wildly popular with mainstream audiences, both the book and the film versions of “The Help” have been the subject of widespread controversy and debate in academia and in the blogosphere. Most recently Melissa Harris Perry devoted a segment of her show (“The Melissa Harris Perry Show”) to a harsh critique of the film’s inaccurate historical conveyances. It seems that White people love the film as an exploration of bygone inequality in interracial relations between White and Black women and the evils of racism. But given the film is not only about race, but also about women, what about the evils of sexism?


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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Navigating the Semantic Minefield of Promoting Moral Development
by Marvin W. Berkowitz

I am confused about words. I have found the language of moral education to be a semantic minefield. There is no moral GPS to help with such semantic navigation. I have lectured, written, etc. under quite a set of terms. The terminology varies geographically and historically. And there are many overlapping terms used: moral education, values education, character education, civic education, citizenship education, democratic education, moralogy, social-emotional learning, positive psychology, etc. As a doctoral student in developmental psychology, I discovered Kohlbergian moral development. It began a 40-year journey that has had many terminological turning points. For about two decades I walked a straight line under the banner of “moral development and education.” I renounced the “values education” and “values clarification” movements, embracing the Kohlbergian party line that values and virtues were arbitrary and non-universal, a “bag of virtues.” As a devoted member of AME, I almost never missed an annual meeting. I served on the Board of AME for about 15 years, at first informally at the invitation of Kohlberg and eventually more formally through member elections.


Opinions expressed in these Op Ed pieces are solely those of the author and not intended to represent AME. AME chooses to publish pieces that will foster discussion on issues related to moral psychology, philosophy, development, and education.

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